Lionel Messi may have had to stay put at Barcelona but the Argentine legend did succeed in joining one new club this year — the one reserved for sporting billionaires, according to Forbes magazine.
The Argentine striker’s career earnings of over one billion dollars (840 million euros) places the six-time Ballon d’Or winner in a group of mega-wealthy sports figures containing just Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather and his great rival on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Forbes said that in 2020 Messi was the best paid footballer in the world with an income of $126 million from his Barca salary ($92 million for the 2020/2021 season) and $34 million from sponsors and other sources.
The 33-year-old knocked Juventus forward Ronaldo ($117 million) off the top of the football salary chart with Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar ($96 million) in third place and his team-mate, 21-year-old Kylian Mbappe, up in fourth spot ($42 million).
Not surprisingly Ronaldo comes in second in terms of earnings will soften the blow for the Juventus forward, as will his status as the most followed soccer player in the world on social media.
The Premier League remains the world’s richest domestic soccer league but only two of its outfield players feature in the top 10 of the wealth table -- Liverpool’s title-winning striker Mohamed Salah in fifth spot ($37 million) and Manchester United’s midfielder Paul Pogba ($34 million) in sixth. Pogba’s team mate, keeper David de Gea ($27 million) is 10th.
Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann was seventh and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale eighth. Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, the only Bundesliga player, in ninth.
Forbes’ top 10 earning players made a combined $570 million this season, a jump of 11 percent despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic to European leagues and the global economy.
Michael Jordan is also in the billionaire’s club but the basketball legend’s fortune has largely come after retirement through his longstanding contract with Nike and acquisition of NBA franchise Charlotte Hornets.
Messi reluctantly agreed to stay at Barcelona for another season this month, despite saying in the wake of an 8-2 Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich that he wanted out.
He argued that a clause in his contract stating that a 700 million euros release fee would need to be met for him to join another club was no longer active and that he could leave on a free transfer -- a situation that would have allowed him to command astronomical wages from the likes of Manchester City.
Messi is in the final year of his contract so could leave for free next summer. By staying with the Catalan club, the Argentine is in line for an $83 million loyalty bonus so it is likely he will continue to top the money charts.
Pjanic delighted to play alongside Messi at Barca: Miralem Pjanic is looking forward to playing with want-away captain Messi, the midfielder said as he was finally presented on Tuesday following his move from Juventus.
The Bosnian was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and had to quarantine before starting to train with Barcelona last week, after joining in June for 65 million euros ($77 million).
Playing alongside talisman Messi was an attraction, but the Barcelona No.10 tried to force his way out of the club during the close season before eventually relenting.
“I can’t imagine Messi in another shirt, I thought it would all end well,” said Pjanic, who takes the No. 8 shirt worn by Andres Iniesta and later Arthur, who recently joined Juventus.
“My will was to play with (Messi) and I didn’t have any doubts.”
Aged 30, Pjanic’s arrival has been criticised in some quarters as Barcelona’s first-team is already viewed as ageing.
“I would have liked to had come here at the age of six, but the transfer market is how it is,” said Pjanic.
Depay packing his bags for Barcelona, says report : Dutch striker Memphis Depay is on his way to Barcelona from Lyon in a transfer worth 25 million euros ($29.6 million), Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported on Tuesday.
If the deal goes through, the 26-year-old international will join compatriots Frenkie de Jong and coach Ronald Koeman, who started Depay regularly when he was in charge of the national team.
“Barcelona hope to confirm officially the transfer and introduce Depay to Camp Nou later in the week,” said De Telegraaf.
The transfer amount would be 25 million euros according to the daily, plus five million euros at the end of this season, and two million euros in bonuses.
Koeman has been on the hunt for a striker after telling Uruguayan Luis Suarez he wasn’t in his plans for the coming season.
Depay played an important role in Lyon’s progress to the Champions League semi-final and scored a hat-trick in their opening Ligue 1 win of the season over Dijon.
However, he had announced that he did not wish to extend his contract in France and has never hidden his desire to play “for a bigger club” than Lyon.